Thursday. 15/7/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Chris Cermak

Follow the leader

It really is incredible, in the context of a democracy, to reflect on the sheer amount of time that Angela Merkel has dominated the world stage – and how many different types of US president have come and gone in the meantime. On a personal level, her longevity is equally astonishing: my journalistic career, which started with the German news agency DPA in Washington in 2006, has involved a rollercoaster of trying to explain the vagaries of numerous US presidents to a foreign audience – but only one German chancellor.

Over Merkel’s 16 years as chancellor she would visit the US more than any country other than Belgium and France, starting with a January 2006 trip to meet with George W Bush. It’s a testament to her rather unique diplomatic abilities – frank and unwavering in her values but pragmatic in her relationships – that she has had a decent relationship with just about every occupant of the Oval Office during her tenure. Even Donald Trump launched far fewer personal attacks on Merkel than he did on almost any other world leader (though he’d often lob criticism at Germany without mentioning Merkel by name). Unsurprisingly, Merkel’s closest relationship was with Barack Obama, which bodes well for what is almost certain to be her final official visit to Washington and meeting today with Joe Biden.

Yet it’s fair to say that the US-German relationship remains far more fractious, on issues from trade to defence and from Russia to China, than the warm words from its leaders later today will suggest. During Trump’s tenure, Merkel made a point of saying that Europeans could no longer rely solely on the US to guarantee the world order. Expect Biden to flip the script and quiz Merkel on how Germany will face up to its global role and responsibilities once she leaves. And I, for one, will be looking forward to explaining the vagaries of the next German chancellor to Americans.

For more on Merkel’s visit to Washington, listen to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Alamy

Trade / Switzerland & EU

Analyse this

Yesterday it became official: Switzerland will be classified as a non-associated third country in Horizon Europe, the most ambitious research and innovation funding programme in the EU’s history, which will run from 2021 to 2027. That is the lowest form of participation and the designation adds to EU-Swiss tensions, after efforts to establish a broad “framework agreement” for their relationship collapsed earlier this year. The Swiss government has promised to finance research projects that were previously left up in the air but the country’s universities are up in arms as researchers also face exclusion from future EU-led projects. “That’s like telling Roger Federer that he’s not allowed to play at Wimbledon because he’s Swiss,” says Michael Hengartner, president of ETH Board. The door remains open for full member status if Switzerland pays an enlargement contribution and completes talks on a narrower agreement to govern its EU relationship. Time to get talking – for the sake of researchers.

Image: Shutterstock

Aviation / Global

Welcome departure

A turbulent year is prompting airlines everywhere to think outside the box and grasp opportunities where they can. In that vein, Finland’s flag carrier, Finnair, this week announced three new long-haul flights that will depart from neighbouring Sweden. Beginning in October, in time for the winter season, it will fly Airbus A350s from Stockholm to Bangkok, Phuket (pictured) and Miami. The frequent services will continue until April.

Finland’s location has meant that, historically, the airline’s biggest market has been connecting Europe over the high north to Asia, and it has operated many of the continent’s long-haul flights to China. But due to Chinese borders being closed, as well as increasing isolation and limits on inbound international arrivals, Finnair is looking to diversify. “The new flights will strengthen our offering in the Swedish market,” says Ole Orvér, Finnair’s chief commercial officer. Elsewhere, Irish carrier Aer Lingus will begin long-haul flights from the UK’s Manchester airport to New York, Orlando and Barbados later this year. For the future of aviation, such cross-border creativity is laudable.

Image: Alamy

Diplomacy / India & USA

Town and country

Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti will soon be saying goodbye to the California sun: Joe Biden (pictured, on left, with Garcetti) has nominated him to become the next US ambassador to India. Though Garcetti has no specific experience of India or diplomacy, the choice doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise. Garcetti is a close political ally of Biden and was one of the names tapped to become secretary of transportation – a job that was eventually given to another former mayor, Pete Buttigieg. Running a city is not an easy task and Biden seems to value the experience and expertise that mayors can bring to the table: former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel is now ambassador to Japan. A good mayor knows how to make things work, how to navigate the interests of competing groups, and the importance of carrying the torch for your country. All good qualities that are fitting for a top diplomat.

Image: Shutterstock

Urbanism / Germany

Tracked delivery

In an attempt to reduce congestion on its roads, the German city of Karlsruhe has made the novel decision to trial the delivery of goods by tram. The city boasts an integrated system that allows its trams to also run on the Deutsche Bahn train network, opening up the possibility of collecting cargo from cheap and easily installed suburban logistics hubs. Fortunately for passengers it won’t mean cardboard boxes taking up valuable seats during the morning commute. Instead, the Regiokargo system will transform a compartment of the trams into goods storage during off-peak hours, which can subsequently revert back to a passenger space during rush hour. According to the World Economic Forum, the growing demand for e-commerce delivery will require 36 per cent more delivery vehicles in inner cities by 2030, so Karlsruhe’s trial is one that other mayors and urban planners should keep a close eye on.

Image: Yanli Tao, Heatherwick Studio

M24 / Monocle on Design

Thomas Heatherwick

Thomas Heatherwick unveils a radical design for a new electric car and architect Jane Smith shares the key to designing embassies overseas. Plus: we visit the collectible art and design fair Nomad St Moritz.

Film / Sweden

The secret to running a restaurant

In the latest edition of our ‘Secret to...’ series, Niklas Ekstedt opens up his acclaimed eatery – Ekstedt – and divulges some insightful tips on how to run a successful restaurant.

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